From complicated setups and access to wiring, a lot of smart home automation is simply off limits to renters. There are still lots of devices available that you can take when the time comes to pick up and move.
The easiest place to start when it comes to making your rental a little smarter is with a voice command device. The two most obvious choices are the Amazon Echo and Google Home, with Amazon offering several devices at different price points.
The Amazon Echo has been around longer than the Google Home and appears to have a leg up. There are a ton of third-party services and smart devices that are Alexa-compatible.
If you’re a die-hard Google fan, it works seamlessly with your Google accounts. One cool feature you’ll get with the Google Home is the ability to search for and cast YouTube videos to your TV if you also have the Chromecast.
A significant difference between the two is the ability to create multiple profiles. With the Amazon Echo, each member of the family can create a personal profile and connect it to your calendar, shopping list, and more. With the Google Home, there is only one default profile connected to one Google account.
If that’s not a deal breaker, check out our Amazon Echo and Google Home showdown to figure out which one is right for you.
Setting up smart lights in your rental can be very easy. Depending on the brand you choose, you will either need a set of smart bulbs or a hub that lets you control your smart lights. Avoid dimmers and switches that come with these bulbs. A good place to start is with this list of cheap ways to control your lights with your phone.
Good options for renters include:
- Philips Hue — To operate Philips Hue bulbs, you’ll need a Philips Hue Bridge. You can purchase a starter kit [no longer available] with a bridge and three bulbs for $179.99. If you’d prefer to start small, you can purchase the bridge and one bulb separately for $59.99 and $14.99 respectively. If you’d prefer to control the lights using a motion sensor rather than your phone, the Philips Hue Motion Sensor will cost you $39.99.
- Misfit Bolt — Best known for personal fitness devices, Misfit Bolt also offers a smart bulb that doesn’t require a bridge. MSRP is $49.99, but you can find it on Amazon for $35.
- GE Link — GE Link lightbulbs can be purchased for as little as $20, but also require an additional piece of hardware: the Wink Hub. More details on the Wink and GE Link bulbs can be found at the end of the article.
- LIFX — LIFX doesn’t require additional hardware. All you need are the bulbs – but each bulb doesn’t come cheap. MSRP on LIFX bulbs is a minimum of $59.99 per bulb if bought separately, or $48.99 if bought in a pack of four. You can also find them at marginally cheaper prices on Amazon.
Security & Ambient Sensors
Smart home security devices that don’t require an elaborate set up include smart security cameras, locks, and smart detectors.
Devices that renters can use trouble-free include:
- Netatmo — Netatmo offers a lineup of several products including a weather station that detects changes in your environment, a smoke detector, and the Netatmo Welcome, a security camera that comes packed with facial recognition. The Netatmo Welcome, which will cost you $199 (CDN$ 220/£160), has a 360-degree view and only records when necessary.
- Canary — Costing a pricey minimum of $399, the Canary doesn’t come cheap. In addition to serving as a security camera and security notification system, the Canary also keep tabs on air quality, temperature, and humidity. Set up of the device takes place entirely through the iOS or Android app, and user feedback constantly improves the Canary experience. To find out more about the device, check out James’ in-depth review of the Canary. If you’re interested only in the security camera component, check out the all-weather Canary Flex for $199.99.
- Other Security Cameras — Also check out the Nest Security Camera for $199, the Ring Video Door Bell for $199, Piper for $279.99, or the Kuna for $179. With the Kuna, in addition to monitoring your home, the device’s two-way communication system means you can talk to someone at your door remotely. The Kuna and Nest are comparable in price, but how do they compare in features? Take a look at this comparison.
- Ambi Climate — If you’re more concerned with climate rather than security, Ambi Climate, a $179 product that started out on Kickstarter, pairs with any air conditioner that comes with an infrared remote. It adjusts the temperature of your home based on weather conditions, and through learning your personal preferences, and claims to help you save on energy costs.
- Chromecast — One of the most widespread options for smart entertainment is the Google Chromecast. Costing just $35, the device turns any TV with HDMI ports into a smart media center. You can beam content from YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, HBO Now on your phone or laptop to your TV. If you’re more interested in audio, Chromecast Audio can turn your speakers into smart devices. If you purchase a Google Home, you can cast content to your TV or speakers using voice commands.
- There are a variety of well-known entertainment smart devices ranging from $149 to $199 for the Apple TV. The Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices come in a variety of forms ranging from $30 to $130.
The kitchen is probably one of the best places to install some smart appliances that make life a little easier for renters.
- WeMo Crockpot — At $129 (CDN$140), the WeMo Crockpot is a lot more expensive than the standard crockpot. So what sets it apart? The WeMo is wifi enabled, so you can remotely start and stop the crockpot, adjust the temperature, and the cook time. The features might not warrant an upgrade from a standard crockpot, with the exception of the ability to turn it on and off remotely to conserve energy.
- AppKettle — The AppKettle is a smart kettle which you control using your phone. So why would you even need a smart kettle that costs £129? It’s able to heat water to the optimum brewing temperature based on the tea or coffee you’re drinking. So if you’re really serious about your tea and coffee, this might be a perfect addition to your smart kitchen. (AppKettle is not currently available in the U.S.)
- Nespresso Prodigio (CA/UK) — One of the most impressive smart devices in the kitchen category, the Prodigio brings internet connectivity to everything Nespresso users love about their coffee machines. With this $100 coffee maker, you can use an iOS or Android app to schedule when your coffee will be brewed, brew it before you even get out of bed or on your way home, and make sure you never run out of capsules.
- Smart Instant Pot — The $179 Smart Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, steamer, slow cooker, rice cooker, and sauté pan. With the connected version of the pot, you can use downloadable, programmable recipes, and start and monitor your cooking from the iOS or Android app.
- Sense — While you can rely on wearable technology like the Fitbit to track your sleep cycle, it can be uncomfortable wearing the device to bed. There are several options when it comes to smart gadgets that will help you sleep better. The $129.99 (£140) Sense sits by your bed, with another device that is kept under your pillow. It can track your sleep, and in the long run, you can use it to improve your sleep. The Sense also operates as an alarm clock.
- Withings Aura — Costing slightly more at around $220 (£150), the Withings Aura emits sleeping hormones to give you a good night’s sleep. It also simulates a sunrise to wake you, a method said to get you out of bed feeling refreshed and energized. Like the Sense, it also tracks your sleep cycle.
- Philips HF3520 — If you’ve already invested in a Philips Hue system in your home, you can extend it to tracking your sleep cycle. The Philips HF3520 Wake-Up Light costs around $100 (CDN$119/£121) and also simulates a sunrise to gently wake you. However, it does not have any tracking features so if your only concern is how you wake up rather than how you sleep, the Wake-Up Light is a perfect fit.
One of the easiest and cheapest places to start with converting your rental into a smart home is with smart plugs.
Devices plugged into these outlets can be controlled remotely. You can also connect these plugs to automate services like IFTTT to give you more control over your outlets.
Aside from lights, you can get creative with your smart plugs and use them with other devices like coffee machines and tumble dryers. Always be sure to use caution with the devices you choose to use with smart plugs.
Another way you can connect your smart devices is with the use of a smart hub. The Wink Hub, for example, makes it easy to control lights, outlets, motion sensors, security cameras, and more from one app. Several products listed in this article are compatible with the Wink Hub, including the Ring Video Doorbell and Nest Cam.
The Samsung SmartThings Hub is also compatible with multiple devices and easily bridges your lighting, security, sound, and smart devices. Samsung provides a wide array of compatible products including a water sensor that can detect leaks.
What gadgets would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.